Every year, numerous craft breweries go on tap, giving beer lovers more choices than ever (a good thing in our opinion). However, with all the talk of craft beer one must ask: What is craft beer?
First, a little history. In 1873 the U.S. had 4,131 breweries, most of them small and community focused. Prohibition crushed most of these, after which, survivors consolidated the market, expanded territories, and streamlined production. Beer became a commodity—profit overtook quality and diversity.
In 1978 there were 89 total breweries left in the U.S.—and then something beautiful happened. Home brewing was legalized and a revolution was set in motion. Thousands of breweries (5,234 as of 2016) were born with the stroke of a pen. Hence, the abundance of choices and the emergence of "craft beer".
According to the Brewers Association, a craft brewery has to be small, independent and traditional:
Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less. To put this in perspective, Anheuser-Busch produced 357 million barrels (31 gallons equals a barrel) of beer in 2017. MillerCoors was a distant second with 200 million barrels. Sam Adams, who joined the revolution in 1984, produced 2.3 million barrels in 2016. Werk Force Brewing is a true craft brewer. They produced 100 barrels in its first year (2012), 500 in 2015 and recently expanded with hopes of producing up 2,500 barrels per year.
Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer. This is a BIG one. In recent years, the “big brewers” have begun quietly buying up craft breweries. Labels stayed the same, but the brewer was no longer independent or small. They are now simply a small cog in the vast, global web of big beer. This has created a dilemma for the beer drinker who wants to support local, small craft brewers. So many, like Shock Top and Blue Moon have emerged with the appearance of being independent. Others, like Lagunitas (Heineken) and Goose Island (Anheuser-Busch) were once independent, but are no more.
The Brewers Association responded to this problem, by creating the Independent Brewers Seal. Qualifying brewers are able to place an Independent Brewers Seal on all packaging and materials. So far, 3,183 breweries have done so, assuring consumers that they‘re truly drinking craft beer.
A majority of the brewer's total beverage alcohol volume in beers must derive from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages are not considered beers. Beer is made from hops, grain, yeast and water in varying proportions.
So, craft beer is defined by the characteristics of its creation and production. Therefore, craft brewers are small and they focus on beer over business volume. Craft brewers constantly innovate and create new versions of the beer we love. They tend to be involved in their communities through philanthropy, donations, volunteerism and sponsorships.
Craft beer is about being local, independent and totally focused on the beer and those who enjoy it.
At Red Arrow Tap Room, we embrace independent beer. Most of the beer that we serve is local (67%—that we have on tap today are local), and certified independent. Our "coming-soon" list has another 15 local breweries.
Click here for our current menu and stop in to experience true craft beer.